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  1. Letters to the Editor

Tuesday's letters: VA proposal would cut wait lists

Published Jul. 11, 2016

Veterans' care

VA proposal would cut wait lists

America's veterans have served on the front lines to protect our freedom. And as a grateful nation, we must do our part to protect them. But right now, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there is a backlog of more than 505,000 veterans waiting 30 days or longer to receive medical care at VA facilities across our country. In Florida, more than 42,800 vets are currently wait-listed for care. Let's make a collective commitment to better serve those who have served our nation.

Veterans, the VA and the health care community all agree that we need to give our veterans better access to care in our VA system. That is why the VA has proposed a solid plan to modernize the VA system and adopt a 21st century approach to health care delivery.

On May 25, the VA issued a proposed regulation that would give veterans direct access to advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, at its facilities. This commonsense step will streamline veterans' access to the high-quality health care delivered by nurse practitioners — who have a 50-year track record of service to patients, including our nation's military and veterans — and reduce wait times.

More than 4,800 nurse practitioners work at VA facilities providing clinical assessments, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, making diagnoses, and initiating and managing treatment plans, including prescribing medications. They hold advanced degrees and national certification, and bring years of clinical expertise to patient care.

What's standing in the way? The physician lobby. Rather than seeking to streamline the delivery of timely, high-quality health care at VA facilities, the physician lobby is seeking to protect its profession's turf and is actively working to block the proposal. Meanwhile, organizations from the Military Officers Association of America to the Air Force Sergeants Association are weighing in to support the rule, which is open to public comment until July 25. And so should you.

It is time to make care directly and more readily accessible to our nation's veterans and to honor our heroes with the high-quality health care they deserve. Support the VA's proposal to better meet the health care needs of our veterans.

Jean Aertker, Tampa

The writer is a supporter of Veterans Deserve Care, an organization raising awareness of the need to strengthen health care for our nation's veterans.

Charter schools

Funding real estate deals

This is in response to several recent articles and personality profiles that featured charter school positives. That's fine. However, in some cases accountability seems to be falling through the cracks.

When parents, teachers and academics embraced the charter school movement, they had no idea that taxpayer dollars would be used to underwrite lucrative real estate deals. Yet that is exactly what is happening. Here's an example: Less than half of the money the public assumed was dedicated to instruction ever makes it to the classrooms at for-profit Charter Schools USA.

Where does our money go?

Taxes are paying for fat real estate leases, management fees, rent and interest payments to "disregarded entities," whatever they are. This does not sound like "putting students first," as charters claim in their promotional materials. Any thinking person would be appalled to learn that the lease rates for Winthrop, Woodmont and Henderson Hammock charter schools are even higher than the rates for fancy downtown Tampa office space.

You and I, via our taxes, paid real estate fees totaling a mind-boggling $5,138,953 for the 2015-16 school year. That's money we thought would go to educate boys and girls. How is this happening? Charter school laws in Florida are some of the weakest in the United States.

What can we do about it? First, legislators must put a limit on noninstructional expenditures and bring to an end all the self-dealing. Tallahassee has tied the hands of our local school boards; Tallahassee can untie them. We hear a lot of talk about fiscal responsibility. Here's a good place to start.

Second, we need to encourage our school boards to stand up to these corporate heavyweights. Please don't just blame the Legislature and sit on your hands, lamenting that action is useless because the laws favor the for-profits. The children lose when we continue to roll over and play dead.

Charter schools were intended to complement the rest of the public school system. What is happening with these real estate and management deals is an unintended consequence. This hurts the boys and girls and wastes tax dollars. We need to put the pressure on to stop these deals.

Patricia W. Hall, Tampa

The writer is chair of the Education Committee of the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County.

Scott proposes septic tank replacement plan July 6

Counties have the authority

The septic tank inspection mandate passed in 2010 was repealed because the Department of Health's Bureau of Onsite Sewage Programs wrote rules governing the inspections that increased the cost from $400 to $900. The rule required a test that would have nullified thousands of permits that had already been issued and approved according to an existing code that the bureau defined as protective of groundwater. The bureau refused to rewrite the rules as their citizen advisory board recommended. The only choice was to repeal the inspection law and replace it with an inspection statute that did not contain rulemaking authority for the Bureau of Onsite Sewage Programs. The statute is still in effect.

In 2012, a new inspection law was passed that gave all 67 counties the authority to inspect septic systems anywhere in their jurisdiction. The law put into code the definition of failure. To date, no county or municipality has passed an inspection ordinance to identify and have the homeowner correct any failing septic system. Even those counties affected by the algae blooms have not done this. I recommend the Times contact various county commissioners and ask this question: "If you are convinced failing septic systems are causing these blooms, why are you not adopting an inspection ordinance?"

A simple $400 inspection was never the issue.

Andrea Samson, Apopka